Mediterranean Tuna and White Bean Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

updated Jun 30, 2021
Mediterranean Monday
Mediterranean Tuna and White Bean Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

An easy recipe for an Italian-inspired tuna and white bean salad with fennel, radicchio, and arugula.

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

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A large platter of white bean salad sit on the table next to three small salad plates.
Credit: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

Welcome to Mediterranean Monday, Sheela Prakash‘s new monthly column of Mediterranean recipes. Here, Sheela will teach you all about the Mediterranean diet’s feel-good way of cooking and eating, and share vibrant, easygoing recipes. Cook with us using #mediterraneanmonday, and for even more great recipes, pre-order a copy of Sheela’s upcoming cookbook Mediterranean Every Day.

My simple strategy for effortless meal-worthy salads? Scour the pantry for canned goods, then lift them up with whatever in-season veggies and greens I’ve got. Case in point: this zippy, crunchy tuna salad that bursts with bright colors and fresh flavors. Making it is easy! Take a few cans of tuna and white beans; toss them in a vibrant, tangy vinaigrette made from pesto and lemon juice; and stir in some sweet and crunchy fennel, pleasantly bitter radicchio, and peppery arugula. It’s the ultimate no-cook dinner for these warm summer nights.

This salad is just one of many recipes I’ll be sharing as part of this new series, which celebrates Mediterranean cuisine and the diet that naturally stems from it. Each month, I’ll teach you about the building blocks of the diet and share feel-good, approachable recipes that center around them.

A Mediterranean Diet Primer

The Mediterranean diet has been named the very best diet to follow for three years in a row. As a Registered Dietitian, it makes me happy to see the diet get the credit it deserves, because I truly believe it’s the most wholesome way to eat. More importantly, it makes me happy as a home cook, because it’s exactly how I eat every day.

The Mediterranean diet really isn’t a diet in the traditional sense. It’s an everything-in-moderation set of guidelines and that puts nothing “off-limits” — including a glass of wine or a slice of cake. Rather than cutting out certain foods, the diet instead focuses on eating more of a handful of extra-wholesome ingredients like vegetables, whole grains, fish, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. All of these ingredients are rich in nutrients like fiber, protein, and heart-healthy fats that are naturally feel-good — and it doesn’t hurt that they’re pretty tasty, too.

A Light & Fresh Salad That Comes Straight from Your Pantry

Each recipe in this series will focus on at least one key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, and this month’s recipe encompasses pretty much all of them. Tuna and white bean salad is a classic Italian dish that’s always been a favorite in my kitchen, and I’ve been leaning on it especially hard lately as I’ve been reaching into my pantry more than ever. It’s a protein- and fiber-packed salad that makes for a totally satisfying lunch or light dinner — especially during these hot summer months.

When it comes to tuna, I always keep my pantry stocked with olive oil-packed tuna. It’s richer in flavor and packed with more heart-healthy fats than water-packed varieties. As for the pesto, I encourage you to seek out the best you can find. My favorite store-bought brand is Gotham Greens. While it’s pricer than others, it’s worth it since you’re coating every bite of this salad in it. Better yet, if your garden is starting to overflow with basil, make a batch yourself.

While the arugula will wilt a bit after it’s tossed in the vinaigrette, I still feel strongly that this is a great make-ahead salad for meal prepping because the fennel and radicchio stay crunchy for days. Just give it a taste after it’s been in the fridge — it may need a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon juice to bring it back to its best self.

Mediterranean Tuna and White Bean Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

An easy recipe for an Italian-inspired tuna and white bean salad with fennel, radicchio, and arugula.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2

    (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans

  • 2

    (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    small fennel bulb (about 8 ounces)

  • 1

    small head radicchio (about 5 ounces)

  • 2 ounces

    baby arugula (about 2 packed cups)

  • Flaky sea salt, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Drain and rinse 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans in a fine-mesh strainer. Drain 2 (5-ounce) cans oil-packed tuna into the strainer with the beans, but do not rinse.

  2. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon into a small bowl (about 1 tablespoon zest). Juice the zested lemon into the bowl (about 3 tablespoons juice). Add 1/4 cup basil pesto, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and several grinds black pepper. Whisk well to combine and emulsify. Taste and season with more salt as needed.

  3. Trim the end, stalks and fronds off 1 small fennel bulb. Halve the bulb through the core, very thinly slice it crosswise, and place in a large bowl. Halve 1 small radicchio through the core, then cut the core from each piece. Slice crosswise into thin strips and add it to the bowl.

  4. Add 2 ounces arugula (about 2 packed cups) to the bowl of radicchio. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the pesto vinaigrette and toss to coat. Spread the mixture out on a serving platter or divide among individual shallow bowls or plates.

  5. Place the drained beans and tuna in the now-empty bowl (no need to wipe out). Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the pesto vinaigrette and toss to coat. Spoon the mixture over the radicchio and arugula. Drizzle the remaining pesto vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of flaky sea salt, if desired, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pesto vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Whisk well to combine and re-emulsify before using.

Storage: While the arugula will wilt a bit, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.